Onions And Indigestion

An Onion and onion slice
A whole red onion and an onion slice on a cutting board. (Image: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Many people have trouble digesting onions, especially when eaten raw. Some people belch, develop gastroesophageal reflux, have abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or feel as if their meal is sitting in their stomach for longer than usual. If any of these symptoms occur after you eat onions, it is important to understand the reason why they may be causing these problems so you can find a way to better tolerate them.

Gas Production

Onions are a gas-producing vegetable, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and artichoke. Eating onions causes the formation of gas in your digestive tract, which can make you belch, bloat, feel discomfort in your stomach, and have flatulence. You may take some over-the-counter digestive enzymes to help you better digest onions and prevent the formation of gas and other unpleasant symptoms.

Sphincter Pressure

A study done with people with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, showed that onions can affect the pressure within your stomach, which forces the sphincter to open, allowing your last meal along with the acidity of your stomach to come back up and burn your sensitive esophagus at the same time. If this happens to you, try having smaller amounts of onions next time to see if you may get away with eating a bit less of this versatile vegetable that is used in almost all cuisines.

Fructans Intolerance

If your digestive troubles with onions cause you to experience bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, it is very likely that you have trouble tolerating fructans. Fructans are a short-chain fermentable carbohydrate that is often problematic with people with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, but can be a problem in other people as well. If you are intolerant to fructans, even very small amounts of onions, including onion powder, could trigger your symptoms and you will therefore need to completely eliminate onions to avoid indigestion problems.

Avoid Raw Onions

Raw onions tend to cause more problems than cooked onions. Try cooking your onions thoroughly in your recipes to make them more digestible and prevent indigestion symptoms.

Take Probiotics

Probiotics, which are now commonly available at most drugstores, are an effective way to supplement your diet with healthy bacteria that can colonize your gastrointestinal tract and help your digestion. Consult your pharmacist or doctor for help choosing a reliable brand of probiotic. After a few days of taking probiotics, you may be better able to tolerate onions and other hard-to-digest vegetables, although this strategy may not work with everyone.

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